Marathon Fartlek Workout

Marathon Fartlek Workout

Who watched/followed/ran the Boston Marathon yesterday? Congrats again to all of the finishers, especially in that heat! Few races possess the same ability to inspire runners to train for and race a marathon as the Boston Marathon, and I know I’m more excited for my marathon after following the race yesterday. So today, I have a fun marathon fartlek workout for you!  

Whether you’re a new or experienced runner, marathon training can prove to be a tricky endeavor. The increased volume of 40, 55, even 70 miles per week and 20 mile long runs add up and create a significant amount of cumulative fatigue in the legs. So much fatigue that any hard speed work puts you at risk for overtraining or burnout, not to mention that shorter intervals may not be the most specific marathon workouts for your goals.

Avoiding hard 5K or faster paced speed workouts does not mean you need to neglect speed training or let go of any time goals for the marathon. Rather, you should opt for longer and slower intervals that provide marathon specific physiological benefits without leaving your legs too toasted for your weekly long run.

Regular readers know that I love fartlek workouts, both in my own training and in sharing here on the blog. Fartlek workouts are run according to effort and time rather than pace and distance, so you’re less likely to push yourself too hard (and thus increase your risk of injury or overtraining) in any given workout. Fartlek workouts teach you to be more in tune with your effort as well, rather than relying solely upon your GPS for feedback. 

Most of all, I love fartlek workouts for their versatility. No matter what your experience level or pace, you can run fartleks! Plus, in all honesty, marathon training is very mentally demanding. So why not release yourself from the pressure of certain paces and enjoy a fun and fast workout? 

This marathon fartlek workout covers 8-10 miles, depending on how long you warm up or cool down. Total weekly mileage directly impacts your performance on race day. While not true for all runners, statistically a positive correlation exists between how many miles you run per week and how fast your complete a marathon. So not only will a longer and less intense speed workout keep you from pushing too hard too soon; this marathon fartlek workout will add desired mileage to your training while also reminding your legs what it feels like to run fast.

Marathon Fartlek Workout

Marathon Fartlek Workout:

1-2 miles easy running warm up
2 miles of: 4 minutes easy, 1 minutes moderately hard (10K-half marathon pace)
2 miles of: 3 minutes easy, 2 minutes moderately hard
2 miles of: 2 minutes easy, 3 minutes moderately hard
1-2 mile easy running cool down

Moderately hard indicates an effort that is faster than easy pace but not as hard as you would run speed workouts such as 400 m and 800 m repeats. If you run based on pace, aim for approximately 10K to half marathon pace; if you run based on perceived effort, aim for a 7 on the scale of 1-10 (1 being walking, 10 being sprinting as fast as possible). Your breathing should be slightly more labored than usual, but you should still be able to speak in short sentences.

Of course, this marathon fartlek workout is not just for marathoners! Half marathoners and 10K runners (or, obviously, anyone just running for fun and fitness) can also include this workout in their training.

Enjoy this workout? Try one of these other fartlek runs:
Fartlek Workouts for 5K through Marathon
Fartlek Countdown Workout
Early Season Running Workouts

Today I’m also guest posting over at Meredith’s blog The Cookie Chrunicles, so be sure to check out my post on the Benefits of Tune Up Races

Linking up with Wild Workout Wednesday

What’s your workout today?
How do you balance speed work and long runs in marathon or half marathon training?

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22 Responses

  1. Looks like a great workout! I think this would be a great way to break up a long run before actually getting started on marathon training. I like to add a little intensity into those 10 mile runs before I start bumping up my mileage, so this would be a great way to do that! Thanks for sharing!

  2. You better be linking this up with running coaches corner as well! Fartleks are fun, but they are also hard to do in the true sense when you are on your own, unless you have a fartlek-ometer, lol. But I like this approach!

    1. Thank you! They are harder to do solo in the true sense, which is why I lean towards the time-based approach. Then I just click over to elapsed time on my watch or set an interval timer and go!

  3. Ohhhh totally doing this next time I have to run on the treadmill. I can’t do my Hanson’s speed work quite yet until my knee is better but this one is perfect. Bookmarked!

    1. Oh I hope you enjoy it! I always think of your when I link or do that fartlek countdown workout since I know you like it so much. This one will be perfect – easier on the body than Hansons speed 🙂

  4. I like the idea of fartlek workouts, and am hoping that the one I’m scheduled for next week will be way less windy than my first one! Going based off time instead of distance and using a perceived effort is a nice change for me too.

    1. I hope the weather is less windy for you as well – both for the workout and for the race. I’m glad you’re enjoying the change 🙂 It can be an odd shift at first but then once you make it, training is so much more fun and racing is easier! 🙂

  5. I have “borrowed” this workout from you a few times since I originally saw it posted a few months back. I love this workout!!! As you stated, it is a great way to “teach your legs to run fast”. From what I have read about fartleks (from you), I think they are a “speed” run that nearly anyone can do regardless of their level of fitness or for the more experienced runners, these workouts can be done at any point in their training cycle.

    My workout today is a 30 minute spin class followed by a 60 minute circuit. Nearly every inch of my legs can feel what I have put them through the past week to 10 days. 😉

    1. I’m so glad you enjoy it! It makes me so happy when people try and like these workouts 🙂 I hope you enjoyed your workout yesterday – I got sore just reading about it 🙂

    1. I hope you enjoy the workout and good luck on your long run! I’ll be including lots of workouts like this in my marathon training group plans (the pre registration is now up on the blog!) if you enjoy it 🙂

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